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Andre Rienzo rebounds in second start, now has a spring ERA

One of the White Sox's top pitching prospects leaves disastrous debut behind him

Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

Robin Ventura continued his policy of hiding his most essential pitchers from divisional opponents, starting Andre Rienzo against the Cleveland Indians while Jake Peavy screamed at kids on a minor-league field.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating about the latter, here's J.J.'s account:

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jake Peavy yelled "God bless it!" more than a few times during his five innings of work in a minor league game Wednesday morning at Camelback Ranch. Facing mostly minor leaguers on a back field with only a few fans watching, Peavy's intensity was no different than it would be during a regular season game.

"In that environment, sometimes I don't want to get crazy and you guys think I'm some kind of animal down there screaming and yelling, scaring children," Peavy said. "I got a couple guys' families back there out seeing his first spring training and I'm out yelling and screaming on the mound."

That gave Rienzo a chance to post a spring ERA that didn't result in a calculator error. His participation in the World Baseball Classic limited him to one previous appearance with the White Sox, where he failed to retire any of the five batters he faced -- three hits and two walks, with a wild pitch mixed in for additional flavor.

After Wednesday's start -- 3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K -- Rienzo's statistical aesthetics present a classic optimism/pessimism test:

  • Good news: His ERA is now in the land of the legitimate.
  • Bad news: His ERA is 21.00.

But really, even though he gave up two runs over his three innings, he looked how he needed to look. He got some swings and misses on his breaking stuff, his fastball showed some giddyup, he walked only one batter, and he almost escaped unscathed. He nearly worked out of a two-on, nobody out jam in the third, striking out Drew Stubbs twice (he didn't get a curve called his way for the first strike three). Then he induced a traditionally routine 6-4-3 double play that could have ended the third, except Michael Bourn beat it by a fraction of a step. Then he couldn't get a third strike on Asdrubal Cabrera, and Cabrera roped it into the right field corner for a two-run double.

This was my first time watching Rienzo for more than a batter at a time (MLB Network crapped out on me during his WBC start), and I saw a bit of what Matt Manzela noticed during the pseudo-Brazil-Cuba gamethread:

He seemed to lose it a bit both mentally and mechanically once things started to not go his way. Saw a little Zambrano/Pedro in him when he didn’t get that called strike. He’s a competitor for sure. If he can harness his emotions and keep the walks down, he could be a solid back end starter.

I could see the exaggerated reactions to misfortune -- you could see exasperation from his head and shoulders when he didn't get the strike three to Stubbs, and he jumped in frustration after Bourn beat out the double play. But I don't think it resulted in lost composure or mechanics. He got two strikes on Cabrera, but he couldn't get a third. He's a real hitter, and Rienzo has some developing left. There are worse fates for prospects in spring training -- like failing to retire any of the five batters you face, as a completely random example.

Robin Ventura was pleased enough:

"He looked good, compared to last outing," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Rienzo. "Time-wise, he's catching back up. He's been moving all over the place. He's back from Japan. It's nice just to end up in a game and doing pretty good for us."

Given that his prospect peers like Simon Castro, Erik Johnson and Scott Snodgress were reassigned to minor-league camp on Monday, it's possible that these three innings are the last for Rienzo this spring on an official basis. With an ERA south of Santos Rodriguez's 23.62, he's in better shape now.

Still in search of a moment: Jordan Danks, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts (one looking). He's now 1-for-18 with six strikeouts, and he holds the lead for the most damaging spring.

Oh, and Jeff Gray pitched the ninth inning. That's always a welcome sight, because his name automatically is associated with one of my favorite blog posts ever -- Jeff Gray Writes In His Journal. Thanks to Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing, I can't see Gray without recalling this line:

May 22

The clownfish has the anemone. Who is our anemone?

It was followed up later with Jeff Gray At A Conference, which is nearly as good. Anyway, I mention this because Sullivan stepped down from Lookout Landing on Tuesday, which sucks. At least he made Gray way more interesting than he probably is, which is something we all kinda strive to do, when you really think about it.